A few leftovers from the weekly Patriots chat:
Eric (Buzzards Bay, Mass.): Mike, what is the Pats sub defense going to look like this season? I don't particularly like the idea of taking one of the projected starting LBs off the field for more than 50 percent of defensive snaps.
Eric, the sub defense will vary each week depending on the game-plan. Sometimes they go with a heavier defensive line to account for the running game. Other times they'll go a bit lighter up front and want some more speed at the linebacker level. The key player when this discussion comes up projects to be linebacker Dont'a Hightower because Jerod Mayo and Jamie Collins look like locks to stay on when in sub. Does Hightower come off, like Brandon Spikes did, when the Patriots take a linebacker off the field? Or does he move closer to the line of scrimmage, like he did at times at Alabama? He's a versatile player and that will be interesting to watch because I think he can help the team in different ways we haven't seen to this point.
Jason (Hopkinton, Mass.): After all the QB draft prospects visit, do you think the Pats is seriously about drafting a QB in the early rounds or it was just smoke screen? How would you rank the needs on drafting a QB this year comparing to other positions?
Jason, I think they'll come out of the draft, or free agency, with at least one more quarterback. They can't go into training camp with just two like they have right now. The question is "how early do you take that plunge?" I'd think third round at the earliest, with the caveat that the late second-round pick (62nd) is almost like a third-rounder. I put that need at No. 7 on the list when projecting the short- and long-term picture. Of course, just because it's No. 7 doesn't mean it will be picked seventh in the order. If the right player is there in the third round, for example, the team likely wouldn't wait to strike it (e.g. Ryan Mallett in 2011, Kevin O'Connell in 2008).
Bob (Apollo Beach, Fla.): Do you think it's possible that Bill Belichick is bringing in all these high profile QBs for visits in an effort to make teams think twice about waiting to pick those players in the second round? In other words, forcing teams to use their first round pick on a QB so that players who the Patriots are actually interested in will fall to 29.
Bob, I wouldn't put anything past Bill Belichick, but my feeling is that the Patriots are simply trying to get a better feel on this overall quarterback class. There is a lot of varied opinion on the class, and given that backup Ryan Mallett has a contract that expires after the 2014 season, there is a strong likelihood they wind up drafting/signing a rookie signal-caller. A residual benefit of bringing the quarterbacks is to create the perception the team would select them in the first round, or perhaps to get a better feel for how they think if the Patriots ever face them. But I don't think that's the primary reason the Patriots hosted those visits.
Chris (Houston): There is excitement regarding this draft and I understand it. But don't the Pats have to take next year's draft into consideration when fielding possible trade transactions? And also, you wouldn't happen to know next year's draft picks per round?
Chris, projecting a draft a year out can be tricky business. Outside of a few positions such as quarterback, I think the projection is more general in nature in terms of saying, "Regardless of the strength of next year's draft, having a '15 first-rounder instead of a '14 second-rounder has more value." So that thought process is always in play with trades, the idea of building future flexibility, sort of like the Browns did last year with 2014 in mind. In 2015, the Patriots have picks in the first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth rounds. The seventh-rounder went to the Rams in a trade for receiver Greg Salas.
Bill Lenkaitis Fan (Charlotte, N.C.): Can you provide a little more context in Raymond Clayborn's "why did it take so long" comment on the Patriot Hall? Was he being playful, or did he sound bitter? If he was frustrated, it was quite the contrast to Ty Law's "now that I'm more mature" approach to reacting to the nomination--and not in a good way.
I think Clayborn, who followed up that comment in his next answer by saying "I'm really honored", was honest in his response. I didn't take it as playful. I also wouldn't hold it against him. He's recovering from November prostate surgery and has strong feelings about his career.